Sensory motor, or sensorimotor, skills are motor skills which rely on one or more of the five senses, most commonly touch and sight. At their tender age, sensory motor lessons for toddlers should amount to no more than letting your little one engage in play activities that will help her begin to build an understanding of her world.
Helping to develop hand-eye coordination, painting advances your toddler’s fine sensory motor skills. Finger painting and painting with a brush both require your toddler to use both his vision as well as his sense of touch. Dress your little guy in his play clothes and spread out a vinyl tablecloth. Show him how to use the finger paints by making a few marks on paper with the paint yourself, and then ask him, “Can you do that?” Because making a mess is part of your toddler’s job description, he will most likely take to finger painting without further prompting. A fun sensorimotor skill lesson that will engage and fascinate your toddler is to have him paint on the driveway or sidewalk with a paint brush and plain water on a warm day. It seems to mesmorize toddlers when they see their painting disappear before their eyes, and encourages them to repeat the exercise. Just bear in mind, when “teaching” your toddler to paint, don’t expect actual artwork; think more Jackson Pollock than Michelangelo.
Stacking and sorting toys and games make for ideal sensory motor lessons for your toddler. These types of toys encourage your toddler to use her analytical skills as well as her vision to solve problems. Prepackaged stacking and sorting toys that employ cups and blocks on a pyramid or pegs, designed to be sorted by size, shape and color, are some of the best exercises for sensorimotor development for toddlers. Cut a hole in the plastic lid of a coffee can and give her different sized objects, such as plastic blocks or empty thread spools. Let her figure out which objects will fit through the hole, and which ones won’t. Just don’t be surprised when she pulls off the lid so she can fit the larger objects into the can.
Playing with modeling clay is another sensory motor exercise that toddlers take to naturally. Focusing on both visual and tactical sensory perception, working with modeling clay helps your toddler develop his spatial ability by learning to think about and manipulate objects in three-dimensional form. Don’t expect unicorns and butterflies from your toddler, but he can learn to make egg-shaped balls, ropes and disks. Roll a ball of commercially-prepared furniture-safe modeling clay between your hands and ask him, “Can you make a ball like me?” You can also make your own modeling clay by mixing equal parts of flour and salt and just enough water to make the clay workable — and it’ll wash right off your new Berber carpet with just water.
Use a game of mini basketball as an all-around sensory motor lesson for your toddler, combining both her fine and gross motor skills while engaging both her tactical and visual senses. You’ll need a a mini basketball hoop — the kind with the suction cup the sticks to the wall — with a matching sponge ball. If you don’t have that handy, just drop any type of ball into your laundry basket to develop your little one’s sensorimotor skills. To help develop her large motor skills and hand-eye coordination, you can start her out swinging at a T-ball. Adjust the “T” — the stand that holds the ball — to chest-high on your toddler. Place the ball on the T and hold onto her waist because she’s a toddler and she may fall over if you don’t. Ask her, “Can you hit the ball with the bat?” and let her swing away. Don’t try to get her to swing like Ted Williams, just let her tap the ball off the T. Be kind to both you and your toddler, and use an oversized sponge-style bat for her T-ball lesson. Not only will the larger bat make it easier for your toddler to hit the ball, it will hurt your head a lot less than a plastic bat when you get cracked with the bat during her backswing.